Top team Dayton next for UMass

By Michael Wood

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Michael Wood/Collegian

Michael Wood/Collegian

With only a handful of games remaining on the schedule, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team will try to step up its play with the hope of gaining ground in the Atlantic 10 and securing one of the final spots in the conference tournament at the end of the season.

The Minutewomen face Dayton on Wednesday, which stands at third in the conference table. The Flyers currently lead the A-10 in total scoring with 663 points on the year and 73.7 points per game. UMass, by contrast, is seventh with 569 total points and 63.2 points per game.

“Dayton is the highest-scoring team in the conference,” UMass associate head coach Steve Lanpher said. “They score a lot of their points in transition, so we really focused on getting back defensively [in practice].”

“We have to get better in our defensive rotations and half-court defense, and offensively, we just need to start taking care of the basketball and getting good possessions,” Lanpher added.

Junior forward Justine Raterman leads the offense for the Flyers. She leads in rebounding and scoring on the team, with 7.3 rebounds per game and 16.8 points per game.

Raterman was also just named A-10 Co-Athlete of the Week for her performance against Xavier on Monday. She recorded her third double-double of the season and shot 79 percent from the floor, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. The performance also moved her up to 11th all-time in scoring at Dayton.

“They’ve got three or four players who are really skilled players,” Lanpher said. “We’re not really going to focus on an individual; we’re just going to try to make them work a little bit harder for their shots. Raterman is going to score, but we’re hoping to get her to take more shots to do it.”

Behind Raterman, senior guard Kristin Daugherty is averaging 13 points per game and junior guard Patrice Lalor averages just under 10 points per game.

For the Maroon and White, senior Cerie Mosgrove has continued her recent hot streak, and recently broke the school record for 3-pointers in a single-season (58). Mosgrove has not slowed down, and now has over 60 on the season. She is ranked nationally in 3-point percentage (50.8 percent) and is third in the A-10 in 3-point field goals per game.

Center Jasmine Watson and guard Megan Zullo have rounded out the offensive attack. Zullo is right behind Mosgrove in 3-pointers this season, and looks poised to break it herself any day. She is also fourth in the A-10 in 3-point field goals per game, one behind Mosgrove. Watson and Mosgrove have combined for 277 of the team’s 569 points this season, as well as 150 of the squad’s 327 rebounds.

Despite the offensive play of the starters, Lanpher said he is more concerned about defense against a team like Dayton.

“[We worked on] defensive transitions [in practice],” Lanpher said. “We’re playing teams in the next few games, particularly Dayton, who are great teams.

“Hopefully we can try to limit them to one shot,” Lanpher added. “Because a lot of times if you can hold them to one and they shoot less than 40 percent, you’ve got a chance to be in the basketball game.”

The Flyers will be a significant test for this Minutewomen team down the stretch. UMass’ play against one of the best in the conference could play into any momentum it might carry into the A-10 tournament, if it qualifies. Head coach Sharon Dawley recently questioned the determination of her starters, and their ability to perform well under pressure, but Lanpher said he believes the team has responded well to that criticism and is playing better.

“I think for the most part they’ve responded to [the comments],” Lanpher said. “Particularly Cerie Mosgrove, who’s been playing tremendously since conference games began. Jasmine Watson had a great second half against Charlotte, and Dee Montgomery had a good couple of games. The effort is there, we’ve just got to be more consistent.”

Michael Wood can be reached at [email protected]